The Cavs, blessed by Chance and Wayne, finally arrive at the NBA Finals Cleveland wakes up with a 30-point Game 3 win over the Warriors
If the Golden State Warriors have Lil B on their side as official curse curator and run practices at Drake’s house in Calabasas, California, the Cleveland Cavaliers doubled down over the past 24 hours with their own heavyweight musical cosigners.
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) June 8, 2016
And shortly after Game 3’s tipoff, Lil Wayne offered what could be employed as the team fight song, titled OFF OFF OFF. Wayne extends his support for the Cavs, citing his close friendship with J.R. Smith, LeBron James’ obsession with bringing a ring to “The Land,” and how he’s been down with Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue “since he was wearing braids.”
Wayne and James’ relationship has been dicey over the years. “They don’t chuck me the deuce or nothing! N—– spent all that money on them f— tickets … come holla at me!” he said in Rolling Stone of James and then-teammate Dwyane Wade’s refusal to speak to him during Miami Heat games in 2011. “We sit right there by them little b—- a– n—–. At least come ask me why I’m not rooting for you.”
In 2013, Wayne was escorted from a Los Angles Lakers-Miami Heat game for allegedly making threatening gestures to a Miami fan. Days later, at a Beats By Dre party in Houston for an All-Star Weekend party, Wayne again dissed James and Wade, even claiming to have slept with Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh’s wife.
Time apparently heals all wounds and the Cavs needed all the momentum available for Game 3. In a game they absolutely had to win, Cleveland played like a team who knew its championship hopes sat on life support. Improving to 8-0 at Quicken Loans Arena this postseason, the Cavs pounced early on defense. For the third straight game, they made life miserable for Golden State’s backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for 29 points on 10-of-26 shooting and eight turnovers (Golden State, as a whole, didn’t do themselves any favors either.)
With Cleveland forward Kevin Love sitting (more on that in just a bit), Irving and James went into gunner mode. Irving, the man whom Pepsi coins as “Uncle Drew,” ignited the Cavs with 16 first-quarter points on an array of shots, finishing with 30 points and eight assists. James, meanwhile, once again etched his name into Finals history with a vintage James stat line of 32 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. He didn’t want credit for the win, though.
“I didn’t change my approach and I didn’t take over this game,” the two-time Finals MVP said. “Kyrie pretty much took over the game, especially early and late. He closed the game out. He started the game, and I just sprinkled in my production along the whole game.”
The offensive explosion makes James and Irving just the third set of teammates to both go for 30 plus points in a Finals game, joining former Los Angeles Lakers Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant (2001, 2002) and the aforementioned James and Wade duo (2013). James tied Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with the most 3o-10-5 Finals games with seven and moved past Bryant for 10th all time in most Finals points.
Despite his and Irving’s heavy lifting, James praised Cleveland’s supporting cast with helping secure a 120-90 massacre (the 19th blowout of the playoffs). Smith, after combining for eight points in the two games in Oakland, California, put the correct address in his GPS to the arena and rediscovered his shooting touch to the tune (pun intended) of 20 points, including five 3-pointers. Wednesday night’s MVP, however, was a new member of the starting lineup.
“I give the game ball to RJ [Richard Jefferson], starting for Kevin [Love],” James said. “He came out with so much aggression.”
The 14-year veteran played with a sense of urgency in Game 3 — totaling nine points, eight rebounds and two steals — and it carried over to his squad.
Between now and tipoff tomorrow night, though, questions about Love’s role will propel the bulk of the Cavs’ storylines. If he’s available, should be play? And if he can play, should Love, who signed a $110 million contract last July, start? June isn’t the time to cater to egos. If Love can play, bringing him off the bench not only gives Cleveland a go-to scorer for the second unit, it also means Love’s defensive shortcomings can be further masked.
Lue seems to understand his team, its ebbs and flows and potluck of personalities, better than any coach who has ever taken over midseason. He jokingly, but seriously, told reporters in the postgame press conference he wouldn’t reveal his hand regarding the availability of his star forward.
Whatever the case, Game 4 is now a pivotal game for the Warriors and a “must-win” for the Cavs. A win Friday night by the Warriors, presumably with the Splash Brothers formally announcing their arrival, puts them in the driver’s seat with a 3-1 advantage and possibility of capping off the greatest season in NBA history on their home court Monday night. If the Cavs win Friday, that ties the series at 2-2, and then the NBA Finals would officially be a series, with the momentum squarely in the palms of a man trying to deliver on a promise that revived a city nearly two years ago.
Now if Friday night can just be a game decided within 10 points, we all win.